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Do you want to know what emotions are triggered by combat trauma?

Are you most interested in feelings of anger?
Anger is a normal reaction to experiencing disappointment when results do not measure up to expectations.  The feeling of anger is sometimes experienced as tension in the neck and shoulders.

Here are some ways to express and release anger in an acceptable way:

  1. Physically:  use a pillow to squeeze out the feeling while making a sound of growling or saying “NO” repeatedly.
  2. Use a punching bag, imagining the bag is the reason the expectations weren’t met.
  3. Mentally: Write a letter expressing the anger in angry words, then tear up the paper or burn the paper to symbolize releasing the anger forever.

Rage is a feeling so strong that there is a potential of losing control and hurting yourself or someone else. If you are experiencing this feeling it is important to find an acceptable way to express and release it. Finding a support person, therapist or group may be the beginning of finding a safe way to release rage. Go to RELEASE EXERCISES to begin.

Are you most interested in feelings of sadness? 

Sadness is a normal reaction to loss in any area of life. One of the most often mentioned loss from our returning combat veterans is the loss of innocence. The person he/she used to be. Processing this loss or the loss of friends, family, or other people or things held dear, such as one's past level of functioning, is a grieving process and takes time. There are five steps in the grieving process according to Dr. Kubler Ross, who made the study of grief her life’s work.

  1. Denial
    When traumatic loss occurs, the first reaction is to deny that it happened. Wanting to return to the world before the loss is so strong that the mind tries to believe the loss has not occurred. 
  2. Anger
    With the recognition that, in fact, the loss did occur, pain begins to fill the heart, mind, body. To prevent this deep pain, the energizing feeling of anger bursts forth. Lashing out at what caused the loss is easier to deal with than acknowledging the debilitating hurt.
  3. Bargaining
    Next comes the clever subconscious ploy: If I can do something special the loss will not affect me.  If I do the right thing, I won’t have to deal with the pain. If I promise God to never ______ again, He will take this away. . . .
  4. Depression
    The pain spills over the barriers and the deep feelings of loss, dissatisfaction, sadness and fear overwhelm the emotional blocks. It is important to acknowledge and accept the depression and genuinely mourn the losses, not use drugs or alcohol to mask it. However, the temporary use of an anti-depressant possibly can be helpful to move through this stage without bottoming out and getting stuck in depression. The feeling of sadness may be felt in the heart area.  Tears help to release this feeling. Know that crying is good, not a sign of weakness. Research has shown that chemicals associated with depression come out in tears, so we are designed to cry.
  5. Acceptance
    When the loss is acknowledged and accepted, over and over, a little moment here and there, recovery begins and healing and hope seem possible.  From this acceptance comes the lesson of how life can continue with a renewed mission.

There are groups devoted to supporting a person as they grieve.  Go to RESOURCES to find one.

Are you most interested in feelings of fear?
Fear is the natural response to recognition of potential danger to body, mind, or spirit.

Combat provides many dangers to anyone in the combat area. Danger may be associated with a sound, a smell, a color, a situation, a symbol, a person, or a specific event a person has experienced. The place in the body that holds fear is usually the abdomen with pain in the lower back. The Emotional Freedom Technique has helped many people with fear reactions; refer to the section on Release Exercises. Go to RESOURCES to find a support group. We recommend the Vet Centers: www.vetcenter.va.gov.
Do you want to know more about depression?

Depression is an extended time of feeling sad, lacking energy or interest in daily life functions, isolating and directing attention inside, seeking relief from the feeling of loss by numbing feelings. Depression may occur during a life transition, when the old life is being given up and the new is not yet providing gratification. Some professionals recommend antidepressant medications, and for many they are very helpful. To find helpful support please go to RESOURCES.

Do you want to know more about medications?

Several anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications are available only by prescription. Your family doctor can help you with matching a medication to a particular mental health need. It is not helpful to self-medicate because the secondary issue of addictions may block recovery from the initial issue. Addictions cause long- lasting changes in brain chemistry that drive cravings, and can make your recovery even more difficult, so you want to avoid them. Anti-anxiety medications have more addictive potential than anti-depressants.

Do you want to know about clearing emotional issues from combat?

One way the body deals with the emotions of combat is to store them in the body and/ or lock them in a place in the mind that is not accessible during the time needed for responding to a trauma event. Here is an easy routine you can practice multiple times a day (with no fancy paraphernalia needed) to release these emotions. Think of it like emptying a full barrel. Every time you tip a little emotion out of the barrel, the level decreases, as long as you don't engage in thoughts that raise the level in the barrel again. Even if you do return to trauma thoughts, however, you have a chance to at least break even in the level of stress you carry around.

  1. Become aware of the emotion.
  2. Find the spot in the body that hurts when the emotion is expressed.
  3. Hold the spot that hurts and take a deep breath.
  4. Allow the feeling of the emotion to begin to move, be expressed.
  5. Feel the feeling totally.
  6. Let the breath/feeling go with a growl, a groan, a sigh or a “NO.”
  7. Repeat until the feeling of the emotion lessens or disappears or feels complete. At best, you might feel empty, relaxed, limp.
  8. Breathe in a sense of acceptance and contentment.

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